I had all but quit shooting my first .45. It was my first 1911—naturally, a Colt Series 70. It was a gun that I customized gradually throughout college when I had the money. Most of the work was done by Novak’s, but it took 3 trips to get everything done I wanted done because…well…I was broke in college. I didn’t have the money to do it all at once and truth be told, I don’t think it would have turned out nearly as well if I had been forced to spec it all out as a fairly new shooter anyway. So I shot it stock for a while and then made a list of things I thought it needed based on my time with it. I did that multiple times until I more or less loved everything about it. Except for one little thing: I discovered that couldn’t shoot it worth a damn relative to anything else I owned.
I know what you’re thinking. I thought the same thing on more occasions than I can count. It’s got to be me, I thought. So I continued to take it to matches, shoot drills, and work on my general proficiency with it throughout college. I could group it into a ragged hole, but I could not shoot it quickly to save my life. That’s obviously slightly less than desirable because you never know when shooting fast might, in fact, be a requirement for exactly that. I wrote it off as being the caliber, even after beginning to shoot a 9mm 1911 a lot of the time in matches. But the discrepancy was far too wide between 9mm and .45 to make any sense at all. Splits were horrendous (comparatively) with my Colt, even allowing for a cushion when moving from the lighter-recoiling 9mm gun up to .45. I couldn’t figure it out. I could pick up anything else in the safe and shoot it better than this gun.
I shot steel with friends’ .45s all the time…much faster than with my own. I began training almost exclusively with my 9mms and I was decent enough with them that it bugged me a little less. But in the back of my mind it always irked me that I couldn’t shoot my first 1911 very well—particularly since it was the gun that started it all for me. So I started looking at the common denominators.
There is a long a detailed story here, but suffice it to say that I don’t have great eyesight and for some reason, after much trial and error, I have figured out that a flat, serrated, plain black rear sight cooperates with my eyes better than anything else. And for some reason my eyes just had trouble with acquiring the Novak sights that were on it. I understand the “well, if you’re looking at the front sight the rear sight shouldn’t matter” argument, but it’s an oversimplification that sounds a lot wittier than it actually is. All of that to say that I knew I needed to find a different sight configuration for this gun.
At some point while talking to Jason Burton of Heirloom Precision out at the SHOT Show last year, he told me about his preferred sight setup and it sounded intriguing, to say the least. Standing there on free beer day at the VZ booth in Vegas, I learned all about the merits of a .110” front sight with a .125” rear and I discovered the Heirloom Precision Gold Line front sight, which I fell in love with immediately. I already love gold bead sights and the line is a really unique setup with some similarities.
Jason Burton runs a one-man shop in Tempe, Arizona called Heirloom Precision that only builds full-house custom guns (i.e. complete guns spec’d out from the ground up with customer input and crafted piece by piece by Jason himself), and he is one of the most well respected names in the custom 1911 arena. As a result of that, he regularly builds guns for some of the most discerning clients in the industry—from two-tone Combat Special throwback builds for Larry Vickers to the personal carry guns of Clint Smith. He has taught classes out at Thunder Ranch for a number of years, and he knows what makes a 1911 “work.” Because he carries one every day too. Jason is the type of craftsman whose work other gunsmiths want to own. And praise doesn’t get any higher than that.
So when he explained a setup that he felt worked well for most applications other than complete darkness, I was all ears. And when he told me he would fabricate a set for testing and review to allow myself and others a glimpse into the signature features available on Heirloom Precision builds until I could send him a base gun, I was in. Jason starts out with a Heinie Slant-Pro and shaves it down flush with the top of the slide to allow for one-handed slide manipulation in a pinch. The profile is as artful as it is practical—as you can see in the photos. The Gold Line front sights on Jason’s builds are handmade one at a time in his shop and the serrated insert is pure 24k gold, which has a brilliant hue that glows in almost any lighting conditions. When I received the sights, the most impressive thing to me was the attention to detail that was readily apparent from an initial cursory glance. The flat portion on each side of the front sight had an almost brushed/polished look. That level of finish was something I had never seen before on a set of sights. And based on his full builds I have seen and handled at the SHOT Show for the past several years, I can tell you first hand that it only gets better from there.
When I took my Colt out to the range after getting it back, I took a timer with me. And by the end of my range session I couldn’t stop smiling. The gold line was a change, to be sure, but even without ever shooting a front sight like it, my split times on steel blew my old times with this gun away. For the first time since purchasing the gun years earlier, I could actually shoot it fairly well. Transitions felt easier, splits were faster, and putting lead on steel felt simpler than it had in the past.
JB was right. The sights have worked well for anything I have thrown at them. From shooting drills or steel to practical shooting competitions, they have continued to impress. Additionally, the narrow gold insert allows greater precision for longer shots than a “fatter” bead that is nearly the same width as the front sight itself.
Although I could have found similar success with a different plain black rear, I would never have had the opportunity to see this level of attention to detail or shoot with such a unique front sight setup. It is just one small example of the ways that custom builds can open your eyes to a whole new level of 1911. I had admired the level of craftsmanship on the guns Jason takes to SHOT each and every year, but I never had the chance to shoot a gun with these sights on it until this year. And after shooting the sights and seeing the guns, I am sold. I’ll be sending him a gun for a full build as soon as his wait list and my wallet allow. HP
For more information on Jason Burton or Heirloom Precision, find Jason on Facebook or Instagram (@heirloomprecision) where he regularly posts photos and build updates, or check out the shop’s website at www.heirloomprecision.com. And then send him a base gun!